The WD TV Live is a tiny source of almost unlimited possibilities that turns your TV into a really special entertainment centre.
Long gone are the days when a television was merely a means of watching programmes broadcast from four (or even fewer) channels in real-time.
In the 21st-century, there are all kinds of enhancements that allow viewers to enjoy different offerings whenever they want.The WD TV Live is a streaming media player that is most easily understood by looking at a sample of services that it is capable of providing.
The most obvious attraction for many will be the ability to connect this tiny box to a hard drive. In doing so, it opens up all of your films, music and photographs for viewing on a full screen.
Even better, it will broadcast in up to 1920x1080p quality HD video, meaning that if recordings are of this quality and the HDMI connection is used, the viewing experience should be as good as watching a Blu-ray disc or HDTV channel.
The WD TV Live plays an amazing number of formats and it is a challenge to find one that it cannot handle.
Sound wise, the quality can also be unbeatable with surround sound an option for those that require it or the chance to connect to ordinary hi-fi speakers if that is more desirable.
That is only the start of the fun. You can potentially link up your camera to enjoy films or photos directly or download them onto a hard drive or a memory stick.
The "live" part of the title refers to the unit's other source. With an Internet connection, either through Ethernet or wireless, it is possible to stream movies through Netflix or equivalents and watch dozens of other channels including YouTube, Facebook and, if desired, listen to hundreds of radio stations from around the world. If you have ever yearned to listen to every American football match live, this is your chance.
Also via the Internet, you can log into Facebook, discover games to play, podcasts to watch or listen to and there is a connection to the BBC iPlayer, which facilitates catch up TV on your TV. It can only be a matter of time before updates come through for some of the other major channels as well.
For music lovers in addition to the numerous radio channels Spotify is available but only for those with a paid for contract. Realistically, the best bet here is to play your own music via the hard drive or streaming.
Talking of which, if anyone has time to explore further avenues, perhaps they ought to concentrate hard on the day job. Failing that, WD TV Live will connect directly to a PC or laptop and stream music, video or photos directly on to your television screen.
One pleasing feature is the interface, which makes finding files or stations very easy, helped by a solidly built remote control, which does all that one could ask for. As an alternative, an iPhone or android equivalent can also be pressed into service. The on screen keyboard is adequate but a real one can be linked up too, which might be a good idea if you are a YouTube freak.
The only minor quibble is that while setting it up after purchase is surprisingly easy, the initial boot time is a little on the slow side, meaning that you need to turn the unit on a couple of minutes before actually using it.
At a bargain price of under £70, this would make a great present but if nobody was kind enough to put one under the Christmas tree, it isn’t too much to spend on a personal gift that will provide untold hours of entertainment.